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The story of the Lady Carpenter who thrived above defeat to attain her feat

Agatha Eric-udorie is a professional interior designer, who exude sara remix of deep passion and intuitive knowledge. In what many close associates describe as a fascinating twist in fate, the young professionally trained nurse found herself being tutored in the workshop of a carpenter, which eventually led to the birth of the success story called agatha’ s interior Design ltd, being told today.

Asa young lady in a major ly masculine profession, eric-u dorie grew in knowledge and the rudiments of carp entry, and so also grew her intense desire for beautifying interior spaces. she combined this passion with her already broad exposure to luxury and detailed finishing, which straightened her path into the very enterprising entrepreneur of reputes he has become. her generous experience encompasses all facets of the industry and some aspects of civil engineering and finishing construction.

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Her working career started at finishing marble, where she was head Sales for some years before she left to start her first company bo li-a Enterprises. bo li-a enterprise sat the time, was engaged in the production of furniture and the company was a manufacturer for several prominent and leading brands including leather world during the first renaissance era of interior design in nigeria. leather world offered her a rare opportunity to showcase and ho ne her talents offering a dedicated corner in her gallery. bimbo ala she, the ceo of leather world was one of the pillars in the industry on whose experience agatha thrived, and has remained till date, a career mentor and confidant.

In 1996, after adding a lotto her knowledge, exposure and entrepreneurial experience, agatha eric-u dorie went ahead to start off agatha’ s Interior design limited with the support of her husband, arch. eric Ucheudorie.

Agatha is undergoing a course in th eu kt ob road en her knowledge on her field. in 2013, she was nominated to the international federation of interior designers& architects asa resource council member.

By her inspirational lea der ship,u dorie has led the agatha’ s interior Design ltd team to win several industry awards both locally and internationally, which includes; the idea award( interior design excellence Award) for best showroom 2013 and 2014. in 2015, agatha’ s interior won the arch of europe–international quality award, gold category in frankfurt, germany. the following year, agatha’ s interior won a similar award but in the platinum category, winning the international Award for excellence and business prestige, in new york, united states of america. finally, in 2017, agatha’ s interior design ltd won the best Employer of the year award 2016/2017 by matkoventu res, a notable recruitment firm.

Agatha till date, has been and remains in charge of affairs at the company since inception, being fully responsible for providing the direction, inspiration, motivation and guidance through the company’ s several growth stages and phases evidently witnessed over the past years. she is still fond ly called the“lady carpenter .”

Transitioning from nursing to carpentry?

A lot of people don’t know that I was born in Sierra Leone, my parents are both Nigerians and we grew up in Sierra Leone. During the process after the death of my father, I used to help my mum in the market, she was a petty trader, and then she became a farmer. When it was time for me to go to the University, I couldn’t do Medicine so I was chosen to do Nursing. Back then, we needed to listen to our parents and I didn’t have control over that, so my Aunty said, “Just go into Nursing”, and so I took time out, went into Nursing and then came to Nigeria.

When I arrived Nigeria, it was a very trying time for us. I met a lady called Philomena Mackenzie, from a Scottish background. She had a workshop in Apapa. I lived with her and she began to teach me how to make curtains. We started with curtain designs, and then she had a carpentry shop but after sometime, she closed it down and went into something else.

From her, I learnt how to use my time wisely, I learnt how to make little pieces of furniture prototypes, and she began to teach us about templates. At that time, I was still in Nursing school, so as soon as I finished, I didn’t even go back to collect the certificate, I went straight into the workshop, got myself involved and she started teaching me.

It was at that point in time that I took interest in this. So, I give my credit first to God for making our paths cross and secondly, I am grateful to her. She taught me well and to have learnt over the years from her was an amazing experience. That’s how my career started.

Who would you define as a professional interior decorator?

A professional interior decorator is someone who understands what they are dealing with; it is beyond owning a Degree, Kelly Hoppen didn’t have one but she is the most celebrated interior designer today in the UK. So I follow her, I read all her stories, books, and watch her projects and I learn. So someone who has been through the system, especially when you understand what you’re dealing with, is someone to follow. I realise that if you don’t have that basic carpentry knowledge, you won’t understand furniture scaling.

25 years in the business, what is your story, how has it been? What are you looking forward to?

It’s a journey, a real journey. I started first of all in Oko Oba, where you had all the wood markets and I didn’t have a workshop. So I would go there, engage a carpenter and because I know carpentry, I’ll tell them what to do, I’ll teach them, I’ll draw out a little bit for the things I want and do my fabric selection, and so we began to make very good furniture. I’ve made furniture for many people in this country. I’ve made beautiful furniture for top management of GTBank in the past, I’ve made furniture for people whose names I don’t want to mention.

Starting off, I produced very good fabric sofas, I brought out the best and so, I became very well known. Through that journey, I began to educate myself. I had an Italian boss, at Finishing Marble where I worked. while there, I worked under my boss and till date, I can tell you all the names of the different types of marble, I can tell you about the processing. At that point in time with Finishing Marble, I learnt a lot and I also worked on a lot of projects. So, as I look at things today as it’s unfolding, I indeed have a lot to be grateful to God for.

That’s how it all began. That process of having a workshop in Gbagada, that process of talking to the people I bought my items from, telling them how I want my wood to be clean and dried. I am in tune with the entire process from beginning to the end. So 25 years and counting, I have a lot to be grateful for…still do, ever will.

Relationship with Finishing Marble and how the name Agatha’s Interior Design was birthed

Finishing Marble company is closed. But it was one of the Italian companies that had the facility to install marble in people’s houses. It did quite a lot of big jobs in this country. I learnt a lot there, fantastic teaching. Italians are passionate about what they do and it’s the same passion I took over.

When I was working on a project, at that time, my company’s name was Boil-a limited, but when I got ministered to, (I started in Apapa Parish, and Pastor Tony Rapu was my Pastor) Pastor Tony said ‘why don’t you just call this company ‘Agatha’s Interior?’ I remember then, it was at Double Four Restaurant, I attended R.C.C.G, we came out for lunch. I was deputy head of ushering. He just said to me, I think you should rename the company and it was called Agatha’s Interior.

I was also given the opportunity to do Daddy G.O’S first house and after I finished, Daddy G.O said to me; “May God give you the desires of your heart. Open your hands.” I opened my hands and he said “God bless your hands.” And that was it. That’s how it started.

How have you been able to carve a niche for yourself in this industry?

I just focus. That’s the word. You just need to know what you want in life and continue in that sphere. You don’t need to be distracted, just pray. The Bible says He blesses the works of our hands. So despite being involved in carpentry, which is seen as a male dominated sphere, the men love me because they usually see me as a tomboy and they love the fact that I am a female carpenter. So I would say back then and even now, they have been very encouraging. The men wanted to teach me. I remember I once had a Ghanaian carpenter, Peter, he was always coming to say “Madam, I need you to know about this joint, you are learning about this joint.” The men were very supportive, even the apprentice, they would want to go to the market for you; they would want to help you out. They were very supportive and happy for me so that allowed me to blossom.

Would you say the business is lucrative?

Lucrative would be ‘ Yes’ and ‘No’ depending on what sector or area of the business. Are you in the luxury end? Are you in the middle class? Or you are in the bottom? Or are you just a regular carpenter? I could grey the scales but it would be for me a ‘Yes’. The reason why I would say a ‘Yes’ and encourage young people to come in is because in Nigeria, there are a lot of people without homes, looking for jobs, wanting to earn a living, so even if I don’t get the job, the local carpenters are going to get the job and as such, be able to earn a living. So, I believe that at whatever level, you can see it as a lucrative business. When I take a project, a client has to pay 70 percent upfront depending on the company policy. If you have a job for N10 million and you collect 70 percent, as a female entrepreneur, we’re very tactful and not wasteful, you have a lot of money to work with. This profession is one profession that you’re paid up front. These are reasons why I can say it’s a lucrative business.

What importance does mentorship hold for you and how has it helped you in your business?

You’ve got to give back to the society that made you. There is no need holding back. You know, they say in the graves, you have the best heads. So, you’ve got to mentor other people. For me, if someone didn’t mentor me, if someone didn’t teach me, I won’t be here. Information and knowledge is not something you should hold back, you should give it to everybody that comes, that appreciates it. That’s what I do. If you come to me and you want to be mentored, I take you up and say to you ‘come in once a week in the showroom, walk around, enjoy your stay and begin to fall in love with the things you see.’ So, I give back to the society, to primary schools, I tell the story from grass to grace, I tell them every day that you can do better than I have done, just focus. Mentorship is something that I encourage in every profession. I encourage people to take out time and mentor. We’re in an emerging economy, if you don’t teach, how will people learn?

I bring in Italians to teach about painting, application and more. I give back to the society that has made all of these that I have. It’s not that I have a lot of money; it’s not that I’m rich, but I’m satisfied. You’ve got to give back and that’s the same the Holy Spirit keeps ministering to us. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t minister to us, we would not receive from the Father. So every time we get ministered to, we’ve got to minister back to others, we are to go out and make disciples in the market place

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